Blaenavon Triathlon 2009
This event is a legend and you find out why when you get on your bike!
Pre-race meditation :)
I found the pool swim easy enough - I had estimated 18 mins based on training times, but with race adrenaline and a chance to draught behind another guy in the pool, I was more like 15.30. The swim went well, with 5 in the lane looking like it might get congested, but in the event I overtook once and was overtaken once and the rest was plain sailing. When I came out into transition I felt good - then it was on to my new Merida for the first time in a competition and off through Pontypool Park to see what the infamous course had to offer.
Riding out of Pontypool Park
I'd seen nervous looks on the faces of other competitors who had done a recce of the bike route - personally, I'm glad I hadn't! After folling hills heading north from Ponty, with dramatic views of the Sugarloaf, wew began to climb seriously on narrow winding lanes. The climb came in fits and starts, with tough sections and then less steep sections to get your breath back, but all in all it added up to one monstrous ascent that brought us out - eventually - on to the top of the Blorenge. Views here were again awesome, and with the weather set fair there was no finer place to be in all the world.
I lost ground on the descents, being a nervous cyclist on a new bike, and then we came into Blaenavon itself and the red-light-stop we had been warned about in the briefing. To make things fair at the roadworks, all would have to wait a total of three minutes, to avoid the unlucky ones who hit a red light losing out to those who came through on green. I waited a minute and a half at the lights, then rolled down the slope and stopped by the marshal to wait a further minute. This suited me fine - meditation break! I concentrated hard in total silence as the seconds ticked by and I felt in good form when I got the countdown to start up again.
Long undulating roads and more down hills led to a turning signposted "The British". Mmm, I'd heard about this bit. Not only was it a fiercer climb than the first, the road surface was more suitable for a cross bike than a road racer! Is this actually a public road? It cetainly looks more like a farm track or quarry road. Still, at least we were climbing on the rough stuff not descending on it. After this second mountain was conquered there was another steep descent, with warning signs for the hairpin bend, which I crept round at jogging pace. Soon after we joined the main road into Ponty and it was low down over the bars pushing hard for some speed. The course took us past transition and then we looped back up a small hill - which slowed me right down as I was so spent at this point! I finished the last of my drink and gel to fuel myself for the run and rolled into transition ready for the off-road hilly run course.
Coming back into T2
At first the run was on the pavement, then we turned off on to a long section of beautiful canalside path. Sunlight, birdsong, peace, a word of encouragement from Dick Finch who just happened to be passing...then it was climbing time again, this time on lanes and footpaths to the summit of a fair sized hill topped by a folly. The hard part here was negotiating the styles on mountain-damaged legs!
The descent was worthy of a fell race - no surprise really as Gareth Buffet instigated this race (he also gave us Llanbedr to Blaenavon). Fortunately it was dry, and I had no trouble with grip. There was a steep section through a gorgeous field of bluebells, then a twisty path through steeply sloping wooded hillside, and a final push for the finish.
I realised afterwards that one way of measuring your satisfaction with a race is how beautiful the world looks after you finish. Driving over to Bristol later in the day, everything looked amazing. I'd had a good experience :)
Total time was around 3.20, 33rd on the swim time, 28th on the bike and a pleasing 10th fastest on the run.
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